It all started in fall 2004. I was 22 and was starting my third year of college in mechanical engineering while working part-time. I was having a hard time balancing my studies, my work and my relationship with my spouse. Towards the end of summer, I was given light duties at work due to a tendinitis in my right shoulder. The pain prevented me from sleeping, awakening me whenever I placed pressure on my shoulder. After about six weeks, I went back to my job as a machinist, but despite the anti-inflammatory medications I was taking, the pain not only returned, but got worse. I now had a visible mass in my shoulder. Towards the end of my semester, I consulted my family doctor who ordered X-rays of my right shoulder. Shortly after, I underwent a biopsy at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and received a new diagnosis: I didn’t have a tendinitis, but an osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer that placed pressure on the muscles and tendons of my shoulder blades as it grew, causing me to feel pain. Those who had been skeptical about my health were dumbfounded!

That Christmas I had grim news for my family. They were all impatient to learn the results of my December 22nd biopsy and were hoping for good news. My spouse and I had to cancel a two-week holiday we had planned for January to visit her family in Guatemala just before I returned to school. I had to put my studies on hold since my battle against cancer began on January 12th with chemotherapy treatments, followed by surgery on March 22nd and other courses of chemotherapy until June. I now had a lovely titanium prosthesis in the place of my shoulder blade and, thanks to physiotherapy, I strengthened the muscles which had been reattached to my prosthesis so that I could move my right arm.

The year went by and I returned to college in January 2006 to complete my studies. Since my prosthesis didn’t really allow me to exert myself, I had to cross several types of jobs off my list. When I finished school, I began working as an industrial draftsman. It was a new beginning for my spouse and me. We could look forward to the projects we had planned for the future.

While everything seemed to fall into place, I knew there was a chance of having a relapse with lung metastases. So I went for routine medical visits every three months that sometimes required testing in two different hospitals. It was in January 2007 at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Sherbrooke that I learned the news: I had multiple metastases in both lungs. The images of my chest scan and my other tests all pointed to their presence. This news came as a shock to me, but it felt less tragic than the first time since I had known that a recurrence was likely. We were therefore back to square one. In February, I left my job to begin another round of chemotherapy. Despite these treatments, however, my metastases continued to grow. My oncologist no longer knew what treatments to give me. That’s when he told my spouse and I that I only had a few months left to live. This news was very difficult for us to bear.

Left with no other options, my oncologist referred me to Dr. Soulières, an oncologist who treats rare forms of cancers at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (Notre-Dame) in Montreal. He recommended several types of treatments, including one which seemed more promising than the others. Having nothing to lose, I began the treatment soon afterward and, until now, it seems to be working well by preventing my tumours from growing.

This is what I’ve been living since 2004. As a result of my illness, I’ve learned to better accept the challenges that life brings. I’ve also learned that the love and friendship of those who are dear to us are more important than anything else, and that life can be short and that we must therefore take advantage of the present moment. I’ve learned to cry, but not enough according to my spouse. And I now always try to see things in a positive light. Until now, I’ve had the support of my family and friends to get through these difficult times. I’m also fortunate to have competent doctors who take care of me. But, above all, I owe much to my spouse, Adriana. She’s the one who has taken care of me from the very beginning of my illness and continues to be there for me even today. I’m not worried about what comes next. My head is brimming with ideas that are almost all on hold. Let’s just say that for now I’m fine-tuning them just to pass the time!